Answers to "Ask Mike"
6. When Jesus died to forgive our sins, was the forgiveness retroactive to apply to people of the Old Testament (i.e., Adam and Eve)?
The writer of Hebrews records, "...the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (from Hebrews 9:22 NIV) Shortly after Adam's sin, God slaughtered the blood of innocent creatures to provide a covering for the primal pair (Gen. 3:21). These deaths set the stage for a sacrificial system which Adam and his descendents followed (Gen. 4:2-5). Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendents followed this pattern. Following the Exodus, God revealed an even fuller system of offerings of sacrifices. Still, none of these blood sacrifices could take away sin. The writer of Hebrews says, "But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Heb. 10:3-4 NIV, emphasis added). Just a verse or two earlier, the text says, "...it [the Law] can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship." (Heb. 10:1b NIV). Such sacrifices were imperfect. It took a perfect sacrifice to truly atone for sin.
Jesus is that sacrifice. The Scripture says, "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." (Heb. 10:11-12 NIV, emphasis added).
Jesus's death was the one sacrifice which dealt with sin - past, present, and future! The real question is, "How are the benefits of Christ's sacrifice acquired?" The answer is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith in Jesus is sufficient. Only those descendants of Abraham who truly "believed God [had faith]" were forgiven. God was never interested in ritual sacrifice, He wanted sacrifice which originated in genuine faith. The same is true today. You are justified by faith. Just as genuine faith led the believing Hebrew to sacrifice, so faith today always leads to the appropriate response - obedience to the commands of Jesus. Failure to properly respond indicates insufficient or inadequate faith.
Now to answer the question most simply! Yes, forgiveness was retroactive to those who truly trusted God!
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.